Portfolios, the hottest topic with my students and apparently also in the UX community around the world. I’ve given you my two cents in Portfolio for Freelancers and UX Portfolio for a full-time job, so what else is there to talk about? Well, how to break the rules, of course!

Today’s post is for all looking for a full-time UX job or for freelancers that work on long term projects through agencies. I believe this approach will work best for seniors, but it could be an inspiration for all of us.

The other day I talked with a friend of mine (Hey, Eric! If you’re reading this…thanks!) and he pointed out the website of our colleague. I tell you, if I wasn’t at work at that time, I’d start screaming. I cannot remember a time when I’d have so many AHA moments looking at a website and so many moments where I could scream: Exactly! Man, you are a genius!

I love it when people are passionate and have high aspirations, especially when they think like me. This is the story of one of those people.

Philipp Sackl, Product Design Lead at Mozilla, wanted one job and one job only – he wanted to work for Mozilla.

Sending out a hundred job applications is like making a hundred marriage proposals. If the job you are looking at has any intellectual component whatsoever, then being relevant and unique is more important than risk diversification. (spoiler alert: if you are reading this, your job most likely does have an intellectual component).

So take your time. Find one or two jobs that you can be excited about. Then blow their minds.

Instead of going the standard way – LinkedIn, Portfolio, and CV, he did the crazy thing. He created a website Philipp is ready for Mozilla that served him as Portfolio, CV, and a cover letter.

What I love about it…

He tells a story in his own way

Anything you do shows who you are as a professional and as a person. How you do it, tells about your abilities; what you do, tells about who you are.

It’s not about him

He focuses on Mozilla. First, he addresses all the unasked questions:

Hello Mozilla. I want to help you make the best browser on earth.

Why Mozilla?

5 reasons for Mozilla to pick me

Watch me rethink Firefox panorama

Only then he talks about himself and tells of his work and accomplishments.

If you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk

The more portfolios I see, the more I see this as a pain point. It’s so easy to talk about your awesomeness, only to fail to deliver a readable, consistent, and usable portfolio. How can you be a UX if you do not apply usability principles to your own work? How can you say you are a UI designer if you fail to build a beautiful presentation? How can you say you are a programmer… Do you know what I mean?

What Philipp did is a perfect showcase of his abilities. He did what I call “UX your own portfolio”.

When you are a designer, there is no excuse not to treat a job application as a design problem. – Philipp

He thought of his client and focused on them. He predicted the questions his (possible) future employers might have and answered them upfront. He used the colour he knew would appeal to the “client” and he knew that doing a “crazy” project like this will make people talk, which guarantees a lasting impression.

What was there to lose? Even if it didn’t work, I’d just have spent a weekend on a portfolio project for a company I really like! – Philipp

Look at his case study: Firefox tab spaces. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how it should be done!

I believe we should at (almost) all cost avoid doing case studies, where we criticize other designs and provide our “better versions”.  When it comes to a portfolio, this might be tiny bit different though as there is a possibility that you’ll be expected to do this anyhow in a “test”. But please be conservative if you are a junior or you want to become a junior. Sometimes waiting with this step is better.

In his case, this was however almost a necessity.

I had one inherent disadvantage for this position: The only work I did on desktop UI projects is strictly confidential. Having nothing to show in the most relevant field of my portfolio was of course unacceptable.

The fact that I had to do something in this area anyway made it easier to commit to going all in and creating a micro project just for this application. – Philipp

A bold move nonetheless. But he is bold and for him, this was all or nothing shot. Besides, he was applying for a senior position where giving feedback and suggesting solutions would naturally be part of the job.

There is a clear Call-to-action

Do I need to say more? Make sure your dream job as an easy way to get back to you. Email is more than enough. If you want more, more is fine.

Should all of us go this way?

No, not at all. I think the trick is in finding your own way. Something that you can proudly stand behind.

Making the case for yourself as a job applicant is a design problem. Applying techniques from user centered design helps. Always be relevant. Quality trumps quantity. – Philipp

When I applied for my work at Cliqz I knew, like Philipp, that this is the job I wanted. I didn’t apply anywhere else. I sat down, did the research, and in the end, created a portfolio and CV that fit them.

I changed from gaming to browser and that almost felt like a different industry. Sure the basics of work are the same, but everything else is different and I made sure I knew enough about this new industry, to apply to the position. It also helped that the values they live are also my own values. I knew that was my strong point.

The sad part of this process was that my recruiter kept worrying. He would constantly remind me of things that I need to prepare and of knowledge that I need to have. I know it came from a good place. He wanted me to succeed and all in all, he was an amazing recruiter, but that made me so nervous. Looking back (and this is the sad part) is that this worrying made me think that not many people take as much time as I did to prepare. And that’s wrong.

Guys, this is your chance! This is your one chance to reach for the stars.

All in all

Put all that you have in getting your dream job. No matter which approach you take, it should be the one that shows people who you are. Whatever you send them it should be your story. And the result … it should be a story of success.

Thank you

I want to thank Philipp to let me go deep into his way of applying for his dream job. It is always so good finding people that think alike and it’s a pleasure seeing that User-centred design can also help us transform and advance our own lives. We solve other people’ problems, why not do the same for us. Right?

If you want to know more about Phillip


Philipp is ready for mozilla

Hot to land your dream job

connect with him on Twitter:

Philipp Sackl

or say hi to him

@ Push conference here in Munich

Until next time,

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People reacted to this story.
Comments to: UX Portfolio – breaking the rules
  • September 6, 2017

    Hey Pia,

    Great article and a really nice feature about Philipp and his cool approach to the portfolio. I will definitely keep this in mind.

    • September 6, 2017

      Thank you Jay! I love the “crazy” stories especially when they end up in success. Will try to share more.


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